When Jane Chapman, an illustrator of children’s books, heads off to work, she doesn’t have far to go: her kitchen serves as her studio. “I live in a little 300-year-old cottage in Southwest England, very rural, in the middle of the countryside. The kitchen looks out into the garden, so I paint looking out at the garden. It’s a very idyllic setting, really.” This residence provides invaluable inspiration for her work, in sometimes surprising ways.
One Duck Stuck, a Northwoods kind of counting book, is accurate to marshes of the Minnesota area. But when Jane Chapman illustrated it, she was able to use her own surroundings, indoors and out, as her muse. “The blue that’s all over the book is the exact same blue as the color of my kitchen—I’m obsessed by that color blue!” she remarks. Jane Chapman also has a soft spot for the subject. “I LOVE ducks. There are lots of photos of me feeding them at Bird Reserves. I don’t have a pet duck because I love my garden more, but one day I’d like to (and I know my husband definitely would). In One Duck Stuck, the close-ups of the duck are my favorite pictures.”
For another picture book, One Tiny Turtle, it was Jane Chapman’s indoor companions that aided her artwork. Her home may lack a duck, but it does boast at least one prominent pet: “a seventy-something tortoise called Muggs, who is a family heirloom.” Jane Chapman says that both her pet and her illustrator husband influenced her illustrations, which depict the life’s journey of the loggerhead turtle. “My husband has the most amazing collection of magazine, videos, and articles for research purposes,” she says. “It’s quite an impressive filing system, boxes and boxes of materials.” For One Tiny Turtle, Jane Chapman needed all the information she could find. She explains, “There is very little [research] about loggerheads, and I wasn’t able to use other turtle references because of subtle changes in shell shape, flipper shape, skin patterns, skull shape.” Luckily, being married to a fellow illustrator has another benefit as well. “If I get stuck on something in particular, he can help. It’s also helpful to talk to someone who understands and knows about deadlines.”
Doing the artwork for The Emperor’s Egg proved an easier task for Jane Chapman than working on One Tiny Turtle. When asked about illustrating the story of the male emperor penguin, she sighs contentedly, “Aah, bliss!” Not only are there “massive archives of reference for Emperor penguins,” she notes, but ever since her honeymoon—when she visited a Scottish zoo and watched a parade of penguins—she had hoped to have an opportunity to paint them. The project also offered much-appreciated creative opportunities. “It was very design-led,” she says. “It was wonderful to be able to let myself go on the pink and purple snow.”
Jane Chapman’s interests include gardening, sewing, quilting, cooking, and playing bass guitar. She also enjoys “lots of socializing and sitting around with mates in the garden.” She lives with her husband, son, and turtle in England.